Can You Keep a Secret? sadly falls short of achieving a fresh take on the quirky romantic comedy.
An adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s well-liked novel, Can You Keep a Secret? boasts a talented cast. Alexandra Daddario and Tyler Hoechlin are both accomplished actors in their own right, and have been doing solid work in Hollywood and on TV for several years. Given its strong source material and capable cast, the film should have the recipe for a sweet, effective rom-com, which only makes the outcome more disappointing.
It goes without saying that romantic comedies require believable romantic chemistry between the two leads, mixed in with comedy that can actually produce a few laughs out of the audience. Unfortunately, Can You Keep a Secret? fails on both fronts. Emma (Daddario) and Jack (Hoechlin) appear wooden when they are together and when alone. The script from Peter Hutchings doesn’t flesh either of the pair out enough for them to feel natural together or for us to care about the difficulties they face in their relationship. It is a simple yet effective rom-com trope to have the funny best friends, something which Bridget Jones’s Diary accomplishes masterfully, but Emma’s roommates have little cause to be in the film at all other than for the occasional joke. To say they exist purely to service Emma would be a stretch, as they are rarely ever helpful. Direction from Elise Duran is uninspired, with very simple shot set-ups and dull production design. Given the short runtime of 95 minutes, the plot could have benefited greatly from a more focused approach, not only in relation to the romantic leads but the side characters that occupy large sections.
Can You Keep a Secret? is funny in parts, with Emma’s awkward behaviour around her colleagues and superiors somewhat amusing, yet most of the jokes fail to properly land. Given that many of its little quirks feel strange in the Americanised setting, it comes as no surprise that Kinsella’s original book is actually based in England and not the US. Although some of these tropes (i.e. the manic pixie dream girl) would be tired in any culture, the delivery in some of these ‘comedic’ sequences seems to have been lost in translation.
The narrative gets some points for its attempt to balance focus on both Emma’s career and her relationship with Jack. Its display of women who don’t necessarily agree at work bonding over their struggles as career-driven women presents an important message. It is a shame that Can You Keep a Secret? doesn’t fully follow through with this theme. By omitting the book’s detail on Emma’s competitive family as a cause of insecurity, we are left to observe a woman searching for herself through men. Therefore, it is only confusing watching Daddario attempt to portray an emotionally vulnerable woman as we have been shown no motivated reason for this. It is the writing, rather than the performances, that lets this film down and has resulted in a rom-com that is weak both romantically and comedically.
Can You Keep a Secret?, directed by Elise Duran, is distributed in the UK by Vertical Entertainment, certificate 15. It is available to rent via Amazon, iTunes and other VOD platforms.